Experience No Bar For Behavioral Skills in Sales Agents

December 16, 2022

Fundamento conducted an assessment exercise with 1500+ Sales Agents working in a fast-growing tech startup.

Sales agents across industries typically operate on targets and work under immense pressure. They deal with rejection on a daily basis and every sale they make or do not make impacts business tremendously. Sales also sees the highest attrition rates as organizations find it hard to create incentive for employees amidst high pressure and monotony. This doubles up as one of the biggest challenges companies face.

Sales over most customer-facing roles requires behavioral skills that are extremely crucial to consistently show results and to curb attrition. At Fundamento, we’ve spent the last two years working with customer-facing teams and sales representatives. With the data that we’ve gathered, we can safely conclude that behavioral skills such as Emotional Self Control, Critical Thinking, Systems Thinking are crucial to sales success. Nonetheless, most companies do not prioritize behavioral skills while hiring or training sales agents.

However, recently we conducted an assessment exercise with 1500+ sales agents working with a fast-growing tech startup and found that factors like years of experience play a much smaller role in the performance of sales agents as behavioral skills do and that the former has minimal impact on the latter.

In this case, we assessed sales agents on 4 critical skills that are important for their role as sales agents. These skills were choses on the back of the job description and what the role requires individuals to do on a day-to-day basis.

The four power skills were:

Emotional Self Control

The ability to discipline oneself and restrain (with composure) one's emotional reactions or immediate outbursts.

Professional Reliability

The ability to be responsible for and willing to hold account of one's functioning, combined with the ability to maintain transparency, autonomy and dependability in all aspects of work.

Systems Thinking

The cognitive ability of a person to adopt a holistic perspective and evaluate the interplay of multiple dimensions to solve problems and make decisions.

Result Orientation

The ability to purposefully create and accomplish goals while also prioritizing, raising achievability standards, and working within timeframes with a strong drive towards target achievement.

The finding

In a cohort of 1575 sales agents, we noticed that the average skills score across years of experience for power skills like Emotional Self Control, Professional Reliability, Systems Thinking and Result Orientation was nearly the same. This meant that agents with no work experience had almost the same average skills score with minimal delta as agents with 3+ years of experience.

In fact, on breaking this data down, we saw that on average freshers with no prior work experience scored better than agents with work experience.


A common misconception is that years of experience equals on-the-job training which signals high performance. For sales agents specifically, this is extremely far from the truth. In order for sales agents to succeed, there is a need for them to develop key power skills that help them essentially improve sales. Fundamento’s data validates this.

Sales agents with 3 years of experience only had a marginally better skill score than agents with no prior work experience

In the same cohort of sales agents, those with no prior work experience had a skills score of 57% and agents with over three years of experience only saw a slight increase of 1.5% in their skill score.

Sales agents with 1-2 years of experience actually had a lower skills score than agents with no work experience

In the same cohort of sales agents, those with no prior work experience had a skills score of 57% and agents with over three years of experience saw a decrease of 0.75% in their skills score.

Experience doesn’t mean better skills in customer-facing roles

This data shows no correlation between years of work experience and development of behavioral skills. Organizations more often than not, lay emphasis on years of work experience for better performance in their sales teams. This usually dictates decisions they make while hiring these agents and also while training them internally. To the contrary, Fundamento’s data clearly shows that experience has no impact on behavioral skills in sales agents and these power skills are the key drivers of performance.

Moreover, while hiring sales agents, experience then becomes an insignificant metric as performance depends on the development of critical power skills that directly impact performance. The only way in which years of experience would be relevant in this discourse is if it deeply influenced power skills in individuals, which it does not.

Need for skill-based systems

As we evaluate the current world of work and how it impacts people decisions across companies, it is crucial for us to also look at what lies ahead in terms or people strategy, learning and development. Fundamento’s data reinforces the need for something that’s been massively debated over the last few years and is now being accounted for by many organizations - skill-based thinking.

There is a deep and urgent need for skill-based systems to be implemented within organizations in order to activate real growth. These are behavioral skills, that we refer to as power skills, which are transferable and easy to develop in individuals. If organizations are able to measure these skills in teams right from hiring to training and make it a part of their approach to people strategy, it would dramatically change the landscape of work.

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